Review of Frame (20th Anniversary Vinyl Edition) [12k2051]

Fluid Audio (UK)

The 20th anniversary edition of Frame is cited as being the classic release for the New York-based label.

Frame ushered in an era of humanism, melody, and organics in the era of Microsound and the Clicks and Cuts movement at the turn of the century. While it was still steeped in digital sound and the magnification of error as intention, Frame somehow managed to fuse emotion into what had become a very structuralist and cold musical movement’.

On Frame, Dan Abrams, aka Shuttle358, produced a record of minimalist design, complete with tiny dust-pops, clicks, and micro-rhythms, which were then washed in an ambient afterglow; a scattering of digital debris put into some kind of order. Today, the music still feels as fresh as a daisy, and that’s a strong and obvious indication of a special record. Despite its mechanisations, the music can still feel warm and emotional. Somehow, Abrams inserted soul and emotion into the machine-like clusters of sound, and that’s the magic of music. As to why or how, it can never be fully understood, revealed, or answered…but it’s there, all the same.

As the rhythms cycle over and over, the robotic becomes hypnotic, the rhythms forming a line of ordered, uniform design, and somewhat strict in what they’re producing. Somehow, though, the stark textures are imbued with something very human, and there’s a loose, relaxed flow to its music, as if, in the midst of its dissolving walls of static, there lives a glimpse of something more, a soul locked into the depths of the machine’s code but still able to sing out and make its presence known. Frame never feels like a disjointed record, even with all of its attached, microscopic pieces and its sharp-edged apparatus. If errors exist, they’re exalted instead of being made to feel ashamed, integral to the music and influencing its overall flow and shape.

As Abrams says, ‘if you put an empty frame against a blank wall, you suddenly notice the colour, the patterns, the imperfections in the plaster. The frame is like a window of perception. It takes the wall outside time. The frame draws attention to what is within it – it magnifies it, you focus on it, it begins to symbolize the whole wall’.

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